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Naming Your Business

Lesson 3 from: Branding Strategies to Ignite Your Marketing

Ashlyn Carter

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Lesson Info

3. Naming Your Business

Next Lesson: Target Audience

Lesson Info

Naming Your Business

We're gonna start off with talking about step one, how to name your business, and I have a little story for you here. So, I used to work as a publicist for a chef based in Atlanta, and I remember it was like 2013 or '14, and he was opening his very first Tex-Mex restaurant, and Tex-Mex is like, my favorite food genre. I was really excited about this and when he was opening it, he decided to name it Superica, think combo here of super, tacoria, okay? So, as the publicist I was the one that was kinda the gatekeeper between the company and the media. So, I was pitching to journalists, writers, TV anchors, all of those important messengers out there. I was communicating to them all the details about the opening and I cannot tell you how many people told me they were so excited to eat at Superica. So, they're great now, don't worry. It is a booming restaurant in Atlanta, but this is not an uncommon problem, and I think it illustrates something that we have either all felt at some point, or ...

we've experienced ourselves even not being business owners, pronunciation of a name, complication of a business name, or when we can't remember one but we know it's on the tip of our tongue. This is one of the earliest branding decisions that you're making for your business, and just to free you up, I just wanna give you a few examples of how its been done before in the past and probably done badly. So, Nike used to be blue ribbon sports. Google's business first name was Backrub. There's better business names, I'm glad they switched that. Subway was Pete's Super Submarines and Pepsi was Brad's Drink. Real creative, right? So, we all start somewhere and that's why I'm giving you these kinda silly examples. You can absolutely change your business name. We'll get into that in just a minute, but we all start somewhere, so just kinda shake it out. It, yes is a big deal to name your business, and to pick one name and go with it, but I also don't want you to put too much pressure on yourselves as we walk through this. So, here's one more big lens, big idea, that I want you to see naming your business through. Another quote, I told you I love 'em, "In order to be found, you must be findable." So, think about it this way, when it comes to copywriting for your business, these are the marketing words that you're using to communicate what you do as a creative small business. One example of copywriting is your brand's name. When it comes to this kind of communication, there is a little saying I want you to keep in mind, and that is that clarity trumps cleverness, okay? Any ole' day, if you can be clear in your message, that is always gonna be better than having the best quip, the best pun, the best cute phrase. It's always gonna be better for you to be clear okay? Because, to be found you have to be findable. So, as we dig into this, here is another thing that I want you to think through. This is kind of like a gut check test and if Wall Street Journal is a little too uppity for you to think about, maybe call it The Today Show test. But, as you go through business idea names for your business, could you say it to your reporter? Can you imagine that you, The Today Show's doing a big story on creative small businesses, and they pick you. They wanna talk to you about what your experience has been like booking and serving your dream clients, and so you're here on national television and you say your business's name. Is that something that you would be proud of? Could you say it to a reporter? So, you're probably thinking that this is a big task, and it is, and I've, I'm trying to play both sides well because there are a lot of firms that do this. I was just talking to a friend last night and there's a lot of great agencies and firms out there who can help you when it comes to naming your business, but again, when you're getting started it's kinda a lot of bootstrapping right? It's kinda a lot of DIY and doing it yourself. So, there's three big directions that you can go in when you are naming your business. The first is gonna be a little more abstract. This gives a little bit more of a blank slate approach. Now, abstract, these are not made up words. We'll get to that in a sec, but for more abstract words, we're using things that already exist, but we are not being super clear in the business's name as to what it does. So, some examples of this, Target. Great example, right? Target, the word, doesn't tell you what Target does, but it's now upon it, like we totally get what Target does now. They use it as part of their marketing strategy and their imagery strategy. Slack is one of my favorite work tools, my team and I use it all the time, but the word slack doesn't necessarily tell you that this is kind of a messaging software that teams can use to collaborate and talk on different channels. Another example is a retreat I was recently speaking at, Illume Retreat. You don't know too much about who's going to that just from the word itself, okay? So, that's the first direction you can go in, something more abstract. Now, another way you can go is very informative. This is the box where eponymous business names would fall into. So, if you wanna name your business your name, you're in good company, that's a great idea. I actually recommend that being something that you think about. Unless, the only reason I would not recommend it, is if you're thinking of one day selling your business, then maybe reassess that, but Katelyn James Photography, sweet friend and client. My business, my business name is Ashlyn Writes. You can probably guess with 100% accuracy what I do when I say that, and another friend's business, The Contract Shop. You can probably guess what she sells in her shop. Now, the next direction you can go is making up an entirely new word. This is fun but it's definitely a little bit of an uphill battle, but it can be done really well. Some coined business names are things like Etsy, Pepsi, Xerox, and I have a student, and their business name is Wayfaren. It's not really a word, but I love that right? So, here's the big secret, any name can probably work with the right marketing strategy. As you get started, I want you to pull a name that reinforces things that you're already communicating with your ideal clients, and with your ideal dream target customers. The more your name communicates about your business, the less explaining you're gonna have to do on the back side. That's another thing to think through as you name your business. So, as we get ready to wrap this up, I wanna tell you a few things that I would recommend you put on your do not list, okay? These are some common mistakes that I see when businesses pick a name. The first thing is picking something that is too long or too confusing. It is 2018 and we type all the time, so you always think, well it's easy to type, or I can type it out any time, but you will be speaking your name a lot more. Take it back to that Today Show test I just told you about. You're gonna be pitching your business, you're gonna be communicating it at conferences, you're gonna be speaking it out loud. So, is it easy to say and is it confusing? The next thing that I want you to think about is staying away from cute puns or things that only you would understand. It's just, it's a better idea to not go with a pun if you have the opportunity to do that. Another thing I want you to do is to stay pleasant. Again, back to that friend, we were talking last night. One business idea name that had come across her desk had the word glutton in it, and glutton isn't necessarily the most pleasing word to hear, right? Another example, back when I was in my corporate communications days, we were figuring out a name for one of the restaurants and it was BeetleCat, which is a starter sailboat. I don't sail, but I've learned that a sailboat that you learn how to sail on is called a beetle cat. I told my boss that I didn't love the name at first, because to me, it reminded me of Beetlejuice, but it ended up being a great name and the business is booming. So, I just wanna throw that in, that of course, any of this, take it with a grain of salt, but typically unpleasant associations are something that you're gonna wanna stay away from. The next thing I want you to do is not copy somebody. I don't want you to tag on the coattails of somebody else and think something different. When everybody's zigging, you zag, go the other way. Think outside the box a little bit. I want you to not be too clever. Again, kind of related back to the first one. I remember growing up, we were trying to name our new bird dog, and one of the names that we ended up going with, well the name that we named our dog was Lad, because it was short and he got it on command. I'm not trying to compare your business to a dog, but essentially here, I want you to think about how easy that was. It was so easy that the dog could memorize it quickly. We memorized it. So, how can you be really, really simple? How can you be easy to spell and really understandable for people? The last thing that I want you to think about is for growth. Are you naming your business something that pigeonholes you to only do one type of thing? That's totally fine if you just wanna do that, but if you're thinking about expanding, like I said earlier, if you're thinking about wanting to grow a business to sell one day, are you opening yourself up for that by with what you name your business? So, when it comes to the next steps of this, it's time to lock it in. It's time to get this name ready. Now, Christina, my friend, is teaching a great class too, so check it out. She's digging more into how to protect your business legally, but you do wanna go ahead and check for trademarks. The best place, find the link in your resources packet for this, but I want you to go to the U.S. Trademark's website, and I want you to look up this name. I want you to put in quotations, the potential name of your business and see if you can find it that way. Does anybody else out there own this name, or can you grab it? I'm also giving you some great websites where you can check out and see if these domain names are available. You wanna make sure that this is actually something that you can name your business, and somebody else out there on the internet isn't running a business named exactly what you want to name it. If those are open, so think about each of these as a checkpoint. If you can get through this, then you can move on to the next point, and that's calling dibs on social media too. So, whatever platforms you're thinking you want to grow on, go ahead and snag those up. I would actually recommend going and grabbing all of the accounts just so nobody else can make one. You may wanna grab them for all of your names. You may also wanna grab them for your business's name. So, for example, my name is different from my business name, so I'm gonna go ahead and grab as many accounts as I can that have those names. I've run into this problem in my own business and I definitely kinda regret that I didn't hop on a platform sooner and grab one of the names, so I definitely recommend this as a step for you. So, to wrap this up, I want you to choose wisely, but also give yourself a little grace. It's okay to change your business's name. Two great companies run by women that I absolutely look up to, Emily Ley's Simplified, and Lara Casey's Cultivate What Matters, both of them completely renamed their business. Their businesses are both about 10 years old, so it's completely possible for you to change your business, but I do want you to choose wisely okay? So, keep that in mind, and I also want you to remember that professional naming firms will spend up to six months on this. I saw that in corporate, I've seen it now, and so, also, like, spend a little time here. That's okay to do, this isn't something that you're gonna come up with in just two days. You may, but you may not, so give yourself a little grace there as well.

Class Materials

Free Bonus Material

How to Run Your Business Like a Boss
Branding & Copywriting Resource Guide

Ratings and Reviews


Awesome class!! Super great info, Ashlyn is a great presenter!


What a great class and Ashlyn really knows her stuff! Thank you for this super helpful information!

Marta Oliehoek-Samitowska

Very helpful and informative! Ashlyn does a really great job! So much ethusiasm, lots of good advice and so many simple but handy tips!

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